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SPH posts 17.2% fall in Q1 net profit on lower print ad revenue

SINGAPORE Press Holdings (SPH) on Monday posted a 17.2 per cent fall in net profit to S$46.3 million for the first quarter ended November, hit by lower print advertising revenue and one-off retrenchment costs, although property remains a bright spot.  

The Mainboard-listed company, which publishes The Business Times, saw revenue dip 3.8 per cent for the quarter to S$249 million, mainly due to a 13.6 per cent fall in revenue from the media segment to S$140.1 million. This was due to a 19.8 per cent drop in print advertising revenue, although newspaper digital ad revenue rose 8.8 per cent.  

Circulation revenue for Q1 fell 4.3 per cent or S$1.5 million on the back of a 10.3 per cent drop in daily average newspaper print sales. However, daily average newspaper digital sales rose 49.8 per cent or by over 109,000 copies, due to the company's News Tablet campaign. 

The media segment's bottomline was further hit by one-time retrenchment costs of S$7.2 million, following the rationalisation of the media sales and content teams in October 2019. 

However, the property segment saw profit before tax rise 38.2 per cent to S$54.9 million, boosted by a price adjustment of S$10.5 million to an asset in the student accommodation portfolio. Q1 revenue from the property segment rose 18.9 per cent to S$80.8 million, due to SPH's expanded student accommodation portfolio, as well as contributions from SPH Reit. The segment's contribution to SPH's profits is about 80 per cent.

Ng Yat Chung, SPH chief executive, said in a press release: "Our core media business remains challenged as advertisers cut back on their advertising due to the uncertain business outlook. However, we are encouraged by the response to our digital transformation initiatives, including the News Tablet campaign. 

"The recent addition of 2,383 beds to our UK PBSA (purpose-built student accommodation) portfolio and the expansion of SPH Reit into Adelaide post-1QFY20 will strengthen our efforts to boost recurring income from the Property segment," he added. 

In the aged care segment, SPH will also tap on its partnership with Japanese asset manager Bridge-C to seek expansion opportunities overseas.  

SPH shares closed at S$2.18 on Monday, down 0.46 per cent.